May 232017
sweaty mess

Sweating is a normal part of being a human, and stopping sweat from ruining social gatherings should be a normal part of being a functional member of society.

For the athletic few, sweat is worn as a badge of honour after a facebook brag-post workout. For most of us, human skin cordial is an inconvenient part of life that you hope doesn’t get on anything expensive or anyone important. If you are not in a gym, the only other place that is acceptable to sweat is during sex, and even then it’s preferable for everyone involved to pretend it’s not happening.

Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (home of the MIT card-counting blackjack team) have made a futuristic looking suit that responds to body heat and sweat. They report their findings in Science Advances. The suit contains microbial cells that open and close flaps on the suit in response to humidity. Even though the suit looks like it has got some form of rare scab condition, it’s quite funky.

Credit: Hannah Cohen

For middle-aged divorcee’s everywhere, sweat is the ever-present hurdle to “third time’s a charm” life-long happiness. 18 billion dollars a year is spent on making people smell like anything but people – flowers, gravity, dark temptation, wood, dark vanilla, iced musk and ginger. If in doubt, buy a fragrance that sounds like something Brian Cox would talk about while stood in front of a gentle fan. Or, for all you Australians out there, anything you think Alan Duffy‘s silk pillow smells like.

To make sure sweat doesn’t get in the way of potential lovemaking, scientists have printed two lines of microbial cells on latex sheets to create humidity responsive materials. The cells expand and shrink in response to humidity. If the cells are dry, they shrink. If the cells are wet, they expand. It looks like this:


Image: Chin-Yi Cheng

Clearly, this wasn’t futuristic enough for the scientists to get into a high-impact journal because they also make the cells glow when they are wet. Great for science, but something you wouldn’t want to draw attention to if the only part of you glowing was your arse/testicle/under-boob region.

The microbial activated flaps were able to go through a wet and dry cycle up to 100 times without degrading enough for researchers to get annoyed.

Next on the list are clothes that not only respond to moisture but can also release a fragrance while doing so. At this rate, you’ll never have to shower after going to the gym or sitting down in a hot room for too long. Here is the fancy multimedia they put out:


  1. Harnessing the hygroscopic and biofluorescent behaviors of genetically tractable microbial cells to design biohybrid wearables
  2. Researchers design moisture-responsive workout suit

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